How to qualify as a lawyer in the UK
Lawyers in the UK come in many varieties - solicitors, barristers, legal executives, licensed conveyancers, notaries, costs lawyers etc – the right to use these titles is reserved to those who have qualified and are registered with and regulated by the relevant regulatory or professional body.
There are certain activities which can only be undertaken by lawyers holding these titles but anyone can give general legal advice outside of those activities. So foreign lawyers do not need to requalify under their home title in order to practise anywhere in the UK unless they wish to use one of the reserved UK titles and/or practise in a reserved area of work.
There are also three separate geographical legal jurisdictions in the UK: England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which each have their own legal system and important differences in key areas of law.
LawCAB deals only with qualification to become a solicitor of England and Wales. If you wish to enter the legal profession in Scotland as a solicitor or advocate, or the Northern Irish profession as a solicitor or barrister, or become a barrister in England and Wales you should check with the appropriate authorities at the links given.
As a non-UK national there are no obstacles to you becoming a solicitor of England and Wales and holding this qualification alongside your original qualification. Once qualified you can choose whether or not to hold a practising certificate and practise actively as a solicitor anywhere in the world where you are eligible to do so, or simply to be listed on the roll of solicitors, which enables you to indicate to clients and other lawyers that you have met the standards necessary for admission in England and Wales. In either case there are ethical requirements that apply and you should ensure that you are familiar with these.
You should note that qualification as a solicitor of England and Wales does not confer the right to work in the UK and you will need to apply separately to UK Visas and Immigration to ensure that you have the appropriate immigration status should you wish to work in the UK.
If you are not interested in qualifying to become a solicitor or barrister but are interested in studying at postgraduate level in other areas of the law, you may find the Prospects website and the UCAS website useful. The British Council also provides useful guides on studying in the UK.
Check your existing qualifications meet the required entry standards
If you want to apply for the GDL you can do so with a Bachelor’s degree from any country in any subject (benchmarked at Level 6 of the UK Qualifications and credit frameworks. If you are uncertain whether your qualification meets the requirements you can ask the responsible national agency, UK ENIC (formerly UK NARIC) for a Statement of Comparability.
If you are applying for the LPC you must have a qualifying law degree or have completed the GDL. Not every law degree is a “qualifying law degree”, so it is very important that you check before you start and that you recognise that if you switch courses (e.g. from single law honours to joint honours with another subject) that you may be affecting your eligibility for the LPC route.
If you are already a qualified lawyer and planning to start the QLTS route before September 2021 check your qualification is on the SRA’s recognised list of jurisdictions. If it isn’t, it can still be added but you wont be able to apply in the meantime.
If you are planning on starting your qualification journey after September 2021 and taking the SQE route, you will need to hold a UK degree, or show that your degree is equivalent to a UK degree/equivalent qualification through a UK ENIC Statement of Comparability, or demonstrate equivalent qualification or work experience early on in the process, as it is a requirement of the SRA SQE route. An application for equivalence can be made via the SRA website. (The SRA would not require a Statement of Comparability from a candidate who has a UK LLM at the point at which they apply for admission as a solicitor.)
Find out how to demonstrate your English language proficiency (if you need to)
Requirements differ. Each university you are applying to will tell you if you need to take a UKVI approved English language test, an alternative test or participate in a Skype interview. If you are planning to undertake postgraduate law studies in the UK and you require a student visa you will be required to take a Secure English Language Test (SELT) in advance of your visa application, unless you are from a majority English speaking country as recognised by the Home Office. If you are a qualified lawyer you do not need to do anything under the QLTS route as the OSCE assessment will test your English language written and oral skills. Under the SQE route, on current plans, you will only be asked to demonstrate that you have an appropriate level of English language if you are exempt from the SQE 2 assessment.
Consider if you require a visa
To apply for a student visa, you must already have an offer of a place from an institution. Please liaise directly with the institution you are applying to regarding a student visa, once your form has been released to them. Applicants will find further information available at the UK government website. You can check if you need a visa to study in the UK via the UK government guide.
You may also find the British Council study in the UK website useful.
If you require a visa, you will need a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) form from your chosen university, issued to you after you have accepted an offer of a place to study with the university, as part of your visa application.
Note: The UK government Home Office graduate immigration route will be of interest as you get towards the end of your UK-based course of study, if you wish to work in the UK after you graduate.
Familiarise yourself with professional character and suitability requirements
When the time comes for you to apply for admission, either as a solicitor or barrister, you will need to meet the following criteria:
• Character and Suitability- For Solicitors
• Character and Suitability – For Barristers
If you think that there may be a questionmark over whether you will meet these requirements you can ask for an early assessment from your chosen professional regulator See SRA admission screening or BSB admission screening.